A new diplomatic war is looming among Korea, China, Japan, and the United States for hegemony in Northeast Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe avoided disputes and took political advantage by means of the recent Abe Statement that contains words such as invasion, colonial rule, and apology. He also succeeded in winning over the conservatives and centrists by mentioning his pride in post-war Japan and refusing to hand over the history of defeat to future generations. Even the hardliners who criticized past governments’ statements as self-destructive gave a nod to that. The Abe Statement is expected to be a boon to the prime minister’s approval rating, improving bilateral relations with China that are essential for economic revival and enhancing the U.S.-Japan alliance all at the same time. His approval rating jumped from 37.7 to 43.2 percent after the statement.
Under the circumstances, he is likely to focus on better relations with China above anything else. He is expected to visit Beijing early next month and a summit meeting may take place there. Then, Korea will be compelled to shake hands with Japan.
China currently has the upper hand in the war. A number of high-ranking figures visit China from all around the world to attend its WWII Victory Day ceremony, which means that the Chinese government has an opportunity to resolve a series of diplomatic issues at a stretch. In his statement, the Japanese Prime Minister mentioned the tolerance of Chinese who endured the pain of war. Although the Chinese government still demands a heartfelt apology and criticized his historical recognition, it appears to be in favor of the gesture of reconciliation. These days, China is in need of Japan, the third-largest economy in the world, as concerns over a long-term economic recession are mounting. Japan is the second-largest trade partner for China.
Washington and Tokyo are closer to each other than ever. U.S. President Barack Obama extolled the Abe Statement, saying that Japan showed a firm promise for peace, democracy, and law-keeping. The United States puts its Pivot to Asia policy before the historical disputes surrounding Japan. The two countries signed the much-enhanced new U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines in April. For Washington, Japan is an important strategic partner in its efforts for keeping China’s military expansion in check.